Why Does It Take Me So Long to Finish a Task?



Do you feel some activities in your business life take you much longer than they take other people?

You aren’t alone. I hear this a lot! Let’s presume you have already delegated the tasks that aren’t your area of expertise (accounting or web maintenance for example). You will still be left with some things that only you can do.

However, these tasks take you much longer to finish than anyone you know. This is frustrating, and makes you feel resentful and bad about yourself.

The most common things that take a long time are tasks like writing a report for a client, writing longer, more detailed emails, spreadsheets, etc.—they usually involve attention to detail. Depending on your business, it may be slightly different for you, but as you are reading this I am sure a few tasks pop straight into your mind.

There are many reasons these tasks seem to take a long time

A) How long does it actually take you? Usually the tasks we find take a long time are also the tasks we don’t like doing. So we spend a lot of time thinking about it, dreading it and avoiding it. It feels like we have spent lots of time when we haven’t even started.

B) Your brain will do whatever it can to stop you from having to do a task you don’t enjoy. Even when you are  sitting down to work on the task, you might be doing clever procrastination tricks.

C) You can’t compare yourself to others. It’s not healthy and you always make yourself feel worse, not better. Also we never know for sure how long it takes someone else to do a task. We can guess, and sometimes people might even tell you, but even then it doesn’t mean it’s the truth. Remember those students at school who would claim they just wrote a paper in 30 minutes and then got an A? They might not have been purposely lying, but maybe their time estimations got warped a little.

D) Everyone has different speeds for different skills. When I was at school, it would take me much longer to do my homework than my siblings or friends. They would be outside playing and I would still be in my bedroom doing the homework. My dyslexia means reading and writing take me much longer than other people. However, I am speedy in other activities. I can tidy a kitchen after a big meal in record-breaking time. I figure the extra time I take with the reading and writing, I compensate in other areas. The same goes for you. You might be able to problem solve in a nano second . . . some people might take hours.

Here are some suggestions

1) Get your timer and start timing yourself to see how much time it actually takes you to complete one of these tasks. You might be surprised by how much time you are really spending on the task.

2) Work in 30-minute chunks. Then when the timer goes off, grab some water, stretch your legs and come back. This keeps your brain fresh and helps beat procrastination.

3) Think: what are you quick at? You won’t be slow at everything!

4) Brainstorm ways to be quicker. Perhaps you could spend more time planning or drawing a mind map. Maybe you can talk into a recorder or use speech recognition software like Dragon . . . you get the idea!

5) Don’t be hard on yourself. The meaner your inner voice is about how ‘slow’ you are, the longer the task will take.
Jacqui Sinfield is an ADHD Coach and author. You can find more from her at http://untappedbrilliance.com/blog/


  1. I can’t find the icon/words to “share with friend” or “email link to a friend” or something similar.

    • Hi EEdee,

      Wow, that would be a wonderful thing to have — but right now, we don’t have it :(

      The best thing to do would be to email your friend and give them this link to the article: http://www.workingwithadhd.com/why-does-it-take-me-so-long-to-finish-a-task/

      Alternately, if you receive our Working with ADHD newsletter where our articles also run, you can forward your favorite articles to your friends just by forwarding through your email program. If you don’t yet receive our newsletter, you can sign up by downloading our “14 Simple Steps to Regain Control of Your Money” special report, to the right. This will put you on our list to get all of our articles via email as soon as they’re written, plus you’ll get the money report!

      Thank you EEdee, for the great suggestion. We will be sure to bring it up to our web support guy. (What do you think, Mark?)

      • Oh, yes, I almost forgot — you can also share via Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin by clicking on the icons at the top of each article.

  2. I once worked for a portrait company that specialized in servicing educational institutions.

    I was there for 38 months in total.

    Months 1 – 9 – just a regular photographer
    Months 9 – 12 – began managing equipment for our territory under the direction on my photo manager
    Months 13 – 22 – continued with equip. mgmt., also became a mentor to other photographers, and still was photographing myself in schools
    Months 23 – 30 – continued with all of these above, also began helping with some administrative tasks. By this time I was a very close right hand to my photo manager. I did hiring paperwork, helped with background checks, he consulted with me on certain decisions he was making about scheduling and staff, he delegated a lot more to me.

    The Point: In this time, that photo manager was a one directive delegate with me. I was always successful because every task I was given was broken down. Sometimes so broken down that I’d be doing something of which I wasn’t even sure what the goal our outcome was going to be.

    Then the unthinkable happened. His position was eliminated.
    Our territory manager would become our direct supervisor, mind you, he was NEVER hands on with anything we did. He was clueless to our ‘field’ work altogether. He was more hands on with the accounts, sales and internal operations than anything else. And furthermore, because I had been so close with my prior manager, guess who was promoted with 70% of those manager tasks? Yep..me. I began doing the scheduling, more administration, our labor budget (which I never agreed to, wasn’t told about and had no training and no experience with btw). The list goes on with other tasks I had to take on.

    But, my TM didn’t like to micromanage. So I was given the goal required and had to figure out the tasks to accomplish said goal. There were some days I worked 18+ hours, and at the end you’d find me sitting in front of the computer asking myself “wtf is wrong with me, why can’t I just get this, why can’t I complete this, and why is it taking me so damn long?”.

    Needless to say, from months 31 – 38 my performance began to slip. My love for my job grew in one way, but declined in another. I started hating to go to bed at night because I didn’t want the next day to come faster because I no longer looked forward to going to work. I began to find excuses why things weren’t done. I swallowed the ‘trouble’ I got myself into very dry, knowing I had no one to blame by myself. I was failing, and I was more than feeling it.

    The short story long is this: (yes I said short story long haha)….I sabotaged my position, my relationships, my reputation….I made it irreparable so that I had no choice but to quit because there was no making it good again..that was how I learned to detach my heart from a position I was VERY invested in and loved very much.

    In retrospect, I’ve learned that under one step at a time type direction, I can accomplish great things.
    I’ve also learned that the way in which my mind operates makes it very difficult for me to be given end goal and asked to find my own way there; cuz really, my own way there is possible in 6 million different ways…I see all possibilities, I need to know the ‘why’ of everything, I need to understand the big picture, not be the creator of it!

    • Jacqueline says:

      Hi B!!
      Thanks for your comment. Please don’t blame yourself!
      I noticed a few things in your story that is very typical when you have ADHD.

      1) You do a job you love (for you its taking photos) and then because you are so good at it you get promoted. However the promotion usually includes less of what you are at, and more thing that people with ADHD struggle with. Boring paper work!

      2) Your boss changed. When you have a good working relationship with someone whose working style suits you, you excel +++. BUT when someone different comes along they have a different style which effects how productive you are. Quitting or getting fired is very common in this situation.

      I am happy to read that you are taking the positives away from the situation. Why not write a list of all characteristics that the boss you thrived under had? that will help you to repeat that experience.

      Thinking of you!!!!

  3. Looks like a good article, but unfortunately half the page is cut off on android, tried both chrome and internet explorer. Might be worth trying to change the way the page is displayed for mobile devices.

  4. I know this article may be a few years old but its still relevant.

    I think you forgot the most important reason why it takes a long time to accomplish tasks and thats E but should be A

    E. Slow processing speed. Processing speed is the speed by which a brain processes information. For someone suffering with slow processing speeds, it takes the brain more time to make sense of the information at hand resulting in the task being performed slower.

    I struggle with this all the time with work. And the problem is further exasperated when we also quickly forget the things we just processed.


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